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Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: People called Yucatecos (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of a fantastic 5-part series by our contributing writer Michal Pawlus, describing in more detail the concession to conquer the Maya Yucatan. You can find the full series linked below.

People called Yucatecos

Antonio de Ciudad Real wrote in 1588 that when reaching Yucatan they asked the local ruler what the name of this place was, but he did not understand what the Spanish were saying, so he answered uic athan in his language, which meant what do you speak, we do not understand you. So the Spaniards considered this place to be called the Yucatan.

This name is a symbol of a new chapter in the history of this region and the emergence of a new identity on the peninsula. The beginning of the period of political and religious struggle on the peninsula and the feeling of its separateness from Mexico and attempts to create one’s own state. An example would be the seasonal state of the Republic of Yucatan.

This series of articles will focus on the “last days of the Mayans” during the Spanish conquest of the Yucatan, and their effects.

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan is a Pentalogy that has the following five parts:

1. Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: Incomprehensible Language

2. Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: People called Yucatecos(We are here)

3. Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: Interrogation of Faith

4. Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: Standard of the Maya people

5. Concession to Conquer the Yucatan: Green Jaguar

Subjects of the Crown

After the conquest of the Yucatan, the conquistadors began to settle in the conquered territories.

Conquistadors whose main motivation was to earn money (such as economic emigrants) and return to Spain to live well, but not every conquistador amassed treasures for a prosperous life in Europe. In Mesoamerica, the conquistadors were more independent of the central government, they had encomiendas.

But at the beginning of colonization in the new world, there was a shortage of European goods. Moreover, the new colonies were a dangerous place for the conquistadors and settlers, as there was a risk of new revolts of the indigenous people and new dangerous species of animals.

The city was the basic symbol of civilization in all cultures.

In the beginning, cities were synonymous with the state, just as it has survived in the Mesoamerican culture.

In other civilizations, cities became part of larger political organisms, but their jurisdiction, economy, and legal acts illustrate their important role in social and state structures. The distinguishing characteristic of the City was self-governance.

The ancient city-state was created by an official act of synoecism, or founding.

This act removed the sovereignty and independence from the signatory local communities, replacing them with the jurisdiction of a common government. This government was then called in Rome the res publica, “public affair” or in the Greek world the koinon, “common affair.”

Synoecism (Greek; living together) was originally a combination of villages in ancient Greece into city-states.

The closest analogy today is the incorporation of the city; in fact, the word “incorporation” is often used to translate synoikismos. Before the political union, the future population of the cities constituted smaller settlements that were not obligated to each other, or at least not by the contract that was later to institute their political union. A settlement or group of settlements might be constituents of another politics from which they would be annexed or transferred.

Examples of how the Greeks and Romans understood the concept of a city are important to the culture and history of Europe and Spain.

Spanish cities had local governments that were of great importance in the colonies. Hernan Cortes knew this when they wanted to become independent from the governor of Cuba. Cortes founded the city of Vera Cruz, Cabildo (local government) appointed Cortes, General Kopitan, which gave him the highest military and civil authority in the new territory similar to the governor. The jurisdiction of the Governor of Kubu did not extend to the newly discovered land, and the city council, as a local government on behalf of the king, could make independent decisions, it was necessary in those days due to communication restrictions.

Similarly, the Núñez de Prado (conquistador) wanted to found a city outside the jurisdiction of the Governorate of Chile, hoping to create a province independent of him. Spanish cities in America were often funded by military expeditions. The founding contingent created the founding act of the city, and then elected the city authorities, cabildo (local government), 2 mayors, a judge, councilors, and a bailiff.

In the Spanish colonial cities, there was a division into inhabitants and Vecino.

Vecino (neighbor), ie a host with a significant social position in the city and was similar to a “free man” or “free owner”, participating in the founding of the city. He was a man who owned a townhouse and paid for it, not necessarily living nearby, or a local figure of some value, but not an aristocrat, often an encomendero owning land in a nearby village with a house in a nearby town. This is an important distinction in the initial stages when Vecino lived or stayed in cities that were waiting to be settled.

The Spaniards planned to fund four cities in the Yucatan that would dominate the peninsula at the beginning of colonization.

Campeche on the west coast, Valladolid in the center, Salamanca de Bacalar far to the south, and Mérida to the west, in the fiercely contested site of Tiho.

Among the cities, Mérida was to be the most important as the seat of the royal government. In 1550 Mérida, seventy or more, Valladolid forty-five, perhaps forty, Campeche, and Salamanca de Busalat fifteen or twenty. That year, the entire non-indigenous population was around 1,510. Back in the 80s the sixteenth century the whole peninsula was still only about four hundred Spanish households.

Montejo and his associates divided their influence among themselves in these cities, filling Cabildo positions in these cities, and controlling the colonial peninsula.

In 1546 Ruku there was a Mayan revolt from seven provinces.

During this time, most of the Spaniards left their fortified cities and went to control their encomiendas, so they were easy targets.

During the rebellion, the Maya priests held the Spanish children by the fire, the Spaniards tied to stakes and shot by native archers. The heads, hands, and feet of Europeans were sent to other provinces as a symbol of Spanish mortality and humanity.

The natives destroyed everything Spanish; everything that was associated with the Spanish.

Valladolid was under siege, Salamanca de Bacalar was completely destroyed, Mérida and Campeche cut off from supplies. But the period of Spanish powerlessness did not last long, and by March 1547 the revolt was suppressed.

Revolts gave settlers/conquistadors opportunities to debt, plunder, rape, and enslave the local population without suffering any consequences.

After the conquest, the conquistadors still believed that they could rape native women without punishment, which their missionaries effectively discouraged.

On the other hand, looting and enslavement, methods which were eluded in the first phase of the conquest of a new territory, where the sovereignty of the Spanish Crown had not yet existed, were not tolerated after the conquests, at least not de jure.

As it turned out that more and more natives were converted to the Christian faith and they were already legally vassals and subjects of the Spanish Crown, the use of new subjects could no longer be tolerated because it led to chaos in the new colonies.

The Spanish crown tried to find a way to control the situation in the colonies.

That is why the Council of the Indies was created, which, on behalf of the king, administered the overseas colonies in the new world, supervised them, created a colonial bureaucracy, and in this way the king took control of the colonies.

In the Yucatan and other colonies, there was gradual assimilation to both sides. The natives learned the Spanish language, religion, and technology, and the Spaniards used indigenous everyday objects, ate indigenous food and they took local wives. Over time, both sides began to understand more and more, or at least tolerate each other.

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos
Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos

Christianization was taking place all over Mexico.

At the request of Hernan Cortes, the Franciscans were brought to America, he believed that they fulfilled the word of God best. The Franciscans took the Gospels more radically, they did not focus on riches.

The Franciscans taught and converted the natives.

Native Americans attended weekly catechism lessons. The local elite was forced to be baptized while the sons of the local lords were gathered and isolated in the schools of each monastery to learn catechism, discipline, and to inculcate in them an aversion to the religion of their ancestors. brothers.

The four main prayers were memorized, and they dealt with the language barriers very cleverly.

Franciscans for example The word [in the Aztec language] which comes closest to the pronunciation of ‘Pater’ is pantli ‘, which means a little flag, which is their sign for the number of twenty. So, in order to remember the word ‘Pater’ they draw the flag ‘pantli’ and so say ‘Pater’. For ‘noster’ the closest word they have is ‘nochtli’, which is the fruit called by the Spanish here ‘tuna’, and in Spain ‘the fig of the Indies’ [prickly pear]… Therefore to call to mind the word ‘noster they draw a tuna fruit alongside the little flag they call’ pantli ‘, and so they are able to continue along until they finish the prayer, and in the same way, they found other similar characters and ways to teach themselves those things they needed to memorize.

A large number of survivors died quickly because of the smallpox epidemic, so the Franciscans hurriedly baptized the indigenous people, because, according to Catholicism, baptism is necessary to obtain God’s grace. It happened that one Franciscan baptized 5,000 natives a day. It was an important mission for them.

Disagreement among the natives, which helped the Spaniards conquer Mesoamerica, with time arose between them.

Encomenderos still treated the natives as their property and a prize that ‘deserved’ them as conquerors. But the Franciscans opposed their compatriots who continued to murder, rape, or exploit the indigenous people.

Due to increasing divisions among the Spaniards, Montejo was removed from office in 1549, but Montejoto’s absence only worsened relations between the encomenderos and the Franciscans.

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos

In October 1550, Fray Luis de Villalpando (Franciscan) wrote a letter to the Spanish Crown listing the crimes of ten encomenderos, with an equally detailed list of villages and the number of tributes they held.

The Franciscan described it easily and the Spaniards were able to succumb to anger. He gave examples of several cases of hanging and murder “three and a half years ago”. He related how the encomendero took the native woman, stripped her, tied her naked to a pole, and whipped her with willow twigs in a fierce rage at some imaginary neglect until her death; or now the same man had dealt a great blow to the chieftain of one of his villages with Truncheon while he was present at Villalpando. Like a native, dripping blood from a wound, he fled to the monk who took him in his arms:

”Thus he clung to me, and I to him, bloody, dirty and smelly, Encomendero tore him from me, pulling his hair from my shoulders, which could not help him, in front of all the people and the Spaniard who steel … ”

The acts of violence were also committed by representatives of the administrative authorities who represented the royal authorities.

For example:

“The tax collector who killed the native lord was released for buying two pounds of blue beads… to give them to the wife and children of the deceased, without any other penalty… big or small.”

 Villalpando concluded that:

‘’it costs more to kill a cow or horse in the Yucatan than to kill a native”

Yucatan and New Orders

Franciscans in the Yucatan and other regions of Mesoamerica acted as defenders of the indigenous peoples, but at the same time led the indoctrination and draconian church laws.

In the province of Guatemala, the authorities were taken over by Tomás López Medel, who took his role as a representative of the royal authority very seriously.

He introduced a new order in the colonies, introducing new regulations governing life in the province. He forbade the indigenous lords to secretly hold ancient rituals. All the village congregations were to be restricted, informal meetings of the indigenous lords in the evening, when they indulged in “idle and illegal chat not conducive to their spiritual or temporal welfare”, “drunkenness and disorder ”, and evening dances during which one could sing.

A curfew was introduced. Mayan polygamy was to give way to monologues. The brothers were to determine which of the man’s several women was his “lawful” wife and force him (by flogging if necessary) to accept her. During meals, certain procedures had to be followed: sitting around the table, the cleanliness of the tablecloth, the folding of the hands, an utterance of grace.

He said he noticed too many natives still lived in the bush. Therefore, he ordered them to be gathered “in good and convenient places, in well-organized villages.”

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos

The natives were ordered to leave their houses, which were burned down. Then the stunned and crying natives were driven to new places that the monks found convenient.

Simultaneously with these practices, the Franciscans actively fought for influence on the peninsula with the conquistadors and encomenderos who fought in the conquests of the Yucatan.

In those days, there was a distinction between secular and ecclesiastical government. The monks were not subject to secular authority, they were directly subordinate to the papacy, even they were independent of the priests and ecclesiastical bishops. One of the most important ‘battles’ between the Franciscans and the conquistadors/encomenderos was the trial of Francisco

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos

Hernández was one of the first provincial conquerors and owned two villages, Chikindzonot and Tepich.

When natives from Herznadeza Village were taken to Christian Studies. Hernández went to Guatemala to complain to the audience (was an appellate court in Spain and its empire). In September 1556, Hernandez was in the public prison of Valladolid, awaiting trial before the ecclesiastical authorities, according to the papal bull Exponi Nobis Feriste (was a papal bull signed by Pope Adriano VI in 1522, which was a key document for the evangelization of America The bull established in a very broad way the faculties of the religious in those places outside the reach of the episcopal diocese, thus authorizing the parish tasks by the regular clergy The bull granted the mendicant orders the post-status of being an apostolic authority in those places where there were no bishops or where they were at a distance greater than two days’ travel, except in those ministries that required an episcopal consecration) meant that Hernandez was at the mercy of the Franciscans who were relentless to punish him.

The first time Hernandez was tried before Francisco de Navarro (custodian of the Franciscan Order), Hernandez was found guilty and sentenced to public humiliation, five years in exile, and a heavy fine.

Hernandez managed to flee to Guatemala, where he brought the case before a royal commission that demanded another trial in the Yucatan. For the second time, Hernandez was tried by the new Franciscan custodian, Diego de Landa, who sent Hernández back to prison and prevented Hernández’s attempts to appeal back to an audience in Guatemala. Because Hernández still desperately refused to recognize ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Hernández managed to escape and re-enter the audience in Guatemala, and he also contacted the Archbishop of Mexico, who did not support Exponi Nobis. Hernández went to Mexico and was under the protection of the archbishop.

In May 1561, Hernandez voluntarily returned to the Yucatan, where he was charged with inciting the natives of his encomienda to not attend mass.

On October 29, 1561, Hernandez surrendered to and accepted the authority of the Franciscans.

You can clearly see the stubbornness of the Franciscans and their strong position at the beginning of colonization, as well as the great reluctance of the native Spaniards towards the monks who helped Hernandez escape from prison, which was an act of opposition to the monks’ policy towards encomenderos. The audiences to which Hernandez fled in the Spanish colonies had very large powers.

In contrast to the audiences in the Iberian Peninsula, audiences in colonies, in addition to judicial functions, performed legislative and executive functions, thus representing the king in his role as lawmaker and minister of justice, as evidenced by the fact that as chancellors, only they had the royal seal.

The main function of the hearings was the administration of justice, as a second instance in trials or judicial proceedings, at the level of higher courts. Likewise, they exercised political functions, that is, proper powers of government since the Audiencia acted as an advisor to the viceroy, for which many times it cleared the queries made by the viceroy. In the same way, she was in charge of taking the reins of the viceroyalty when the viceroy was ill or died suddenly.

According to their category, the audiences were of two kinds: Viceregal Audiences, of higher rank, presided over by the viceroy, such were the cases of the Royal Audience of Lima and the Royal Audience of Mexico, that they had under their authority the other audiences of the same viceroyalty, called Subordinate Audiences.

Their importance in the organization of the state is confirmed today because many modern Spanish-speaking South and Central American countries have borders that are roughly the same as those of former audiences.

Concession to Conquer the Yucatan - People called Yucatecos

The former conquerors gave way to the Franciscans who became the new Lords of the Yucatan.

By 1562, twelve monasteries had been established, over 200 villages had already had a church, school, and mission-trained teachers, and the violations by the encomenderos had ceased. Native Commanders and Lords were baptized. It seemed that this machine of provincial Christianization could not be stopped, and soon the entire peninsula would profess Catholicism.

But the Franciscans, who dealt with the reluctance of the encomenderos, began to use terror themselves.

It turned out that the natives, especially in the countryside, still practice idolatry. In such cases, suspicious natives were caught, their wrists were tied with string, and they were lifted off the ground, then questions were asked, such as the number of idol statues they had, even if the natives were telling the truth, they were not believed and kept until the monks believed them.

There were mass arrests and torture of thousands of natives as the clergy found out that the old religions were being practiced. The men were tied to a pole and whipped up to 200 times during the initial interrogation.

The punishment was also suffered by people who did not practice idolatry. For example, one young man who did not betray his father’s possession of two idols received two hundred lashes.

The interventions of the inquisition (the name of the investigative institution of the Catholic Church) and the Franciscans led to a period of economic stagnation as many people were excluded from the labor market.

They were imprisoned, escaped to forests, and tortured.

The clergy’s suspicions turned out to be true. Perhaps the methods they used to find the idols were drastic, it turned out that the idolatrous problem was much more serious for the Franciscans. The monks’ initial credulity and their belief that a brief instruction would be enough to quickly convert the indigenous peoples and change their ancient customs in such a short time were illusory. It turned out that in many villages rituals of human sacrifice are still performed, during which little boys are sacrificed. There have been cases of crucifixions in which the boys’ hearts were ripped out.

These examples made the Franciscans aware that the struggle against the heathen was still alive.

The process of creating Yucatecos, that is mestizo people, Latinos, half Natives, and half Europeans, did not come to an end, but it had just begun. The “new natives” who were “born” from the new order on the Yucatan Peninsula would have to fight for influence, faith, and independence with the “old natives” until the 20th century.


This is the end of Part Two in the Concession to Conquer the Yucatan series.

Thank you for reading this article. I encourage you to comment and share your own thoughts on the issues raised in this article. Please read the next article in this series, Interrogation of Faith. The chapters in this article are Investigation against the Inquisition, Faith Jurisdiction, and The confession of God’s servants. Below is are a few introductory sentences.

Diego de Landa Franciscan, Prior of Merida, Second Bishop of Yucatan. He was born on November 12, 1524 in the city of Alcarria, Spain. At the age of 16 he became a monk, and in 1549 he went to New Spain to spread the Catholic faith in the newly discovered lands. For the rest of his life, Landa converted the Tunya people in the Yucatan, and it was there in the sixteenth century that there were religious and philosophical tensions with his participation. He was a supporter of the unconditional Christianization of the Maya in Yucatan, which was reflected in the increasing number of and drastic methods that were taken against Mayans suspected of idolatry. In 1562, Landa was the initiator of the events known as auto-da-fé, which in Portuguese means an act of faith. It was a ritual of public penance performed for convicted heretics and apostates…

Best regards for all readers,


If you have specific questions on this topic, you are also welcome to email me.

Michal Pawlus - Contributing Writer

Full Concession to Conquer the Yucatan Series:

Part 1: Incomprehensible Language

Part 2: People called Yucatecos

Part 3: Interrogation of Faith

Part 4: Standard of the Maya people

Part 5: Green Jaguar

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